Back in September, we did a mother-daughter read and review of Die Young with Me by Rob Rufus. This book easily makes our favorites list for 2016 reads. We are thrilled to have him on the blog today talking about the process of his book cover design.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, my ass.
I love jacket-cover art. When I’m roaming around bookstores, a cover image can be almost as striking as a book’s title – a good cover is always enough for me to read the synopsis of the book, and consider buying it.
So when my first book was coming out, I got annoyingly nitpicky about the artwork. I didn’t know anything about the business of choosing cover art – I guess I had always assumed it was like choosing album art for a rock-n-roll record, (i.e. if the band thinks it looks cool, just throw it on there and roll with it).
But the process is much more complicated than that. There are designers, marketers, editors, PR agents, literary agents, focus groups, and all sorts of people you never know or meet who have a valid input on the finally images sitting on a bookstore’s shelf.
I have to admit, I was a total punisher to my agent, editor, and pretty much everyone else at Touchstone/Simon & Schuster about the art direction. Since it was my story, it was initially hard to understand that, just because something appealed to me, that didn’t mean it would appeal to the book’s audience.
My brain gravitated to the harsher aspects of the book – punk rock music, and cancer. Everyone else, however, leaned more towards the sentimental, coming-of-age aspects. So while the designers at Simon & Schuster worked on jacket art, I had NYC artist Jeannine Cannon (who usually does envelope-pushing political protest and female empowerment art) mocking up alternate cover designs. The result of all this work was that all the publisher’s designs seemed too tame to me, while the designs I turned in seemed off putting and unmarketable to them.
In the end it was my editor, Matthew, who worked through this chaos to find the idea that would become the final jacket cover. He cut out pieces of the mock covers, and taped them on a black book jacket as a straightforward, simple graphic. The design team at Simon & Schuster ran with it, and cleaned it up so it was palatable. A lot of people worked very hard to make it all come together, and I think the result is something we can all be proud of. After all, people are already getting that DYWM skull tattooed on them, so that must mean someone did something right…right?
(Artwork mockup #2/5 by Jeannine Cannon)
(Eventual artwork concept by my editor)
Thanks so much for sharing, Rob! We think the final result is perfect! Here's a little more about Die Young with Me and author Rob Rufus: